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4 Reasons to Rethink Your Early Retirement Plans

By Maurie Backman – Nov 8, 2021 at 6:46AM

Key Points

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Early retirement might seem like a great idea, but you could be in for some unpleasant surprises.

Many people hope to retire early so they can enjoy their freedom at a fairly young age. And you, too, may have that goal. But early retirement may be a more difficult thing to pull off than you'd imagine. Here are a few reasons you may need to rethink your plans.

1. Your savings could fall short

If you retire in your 60s, you may need your savings to last 20 to 30 years. If you retire a decade earlier, your savings will need to last that much longer. And so in retiring at too young an age, you run the risk of not having adequate savings to meet your needs.

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Remember, it's one thing to look at an impressive retirement savings balance on screen when you check up on your IRA or 401(k) plan. But it's another thing to see how much income you'll be left with on a yearly basis.

If you have $1 million socked away but need your savings to last up to 40 years, you may need to take a conservative approach to withdrawals. That could mean limiting yourself to 2% of your savings per year. With a $1 million nest egg, that's an annual income of just $20,000.

Incidentally, if you're keeping all of your retirement savings in an IRA or 401(k), you'll be penalized for accessing that money prior to age 59 1/2. And so if you'll be retiring at an earlier age, you'll need to have money in another account that won't impose penalties for taking withdrawals.

2. You'll need to pay for healthcare

Once you turn 65, you'll be eligible for health coverage under Medicare. But what will you do before that happens?

Going without health insurance is a bad idea. A single injury or illness could leave you with thousands of dollars in medical bills, and so it's important to secure coverage of some sort. That coverage could end up being expensive, though. And, it may not be as comprehensive as the coverage you're used to under an employer-subsidized plan.

3. You may have to settle for a lower Social Security benefit

If you're retiring in your 50s, Social Security will be off the table for quite some time, since the earliest age you can file for benefits is 62. But even if that's your plan -- to live off of savings until you can collect Social Security -- claiming benefits at that age will leave you with less money from Social Security for life. And that could prove problematic, especially as your nest egg begins to whittle down.

4. You may get bored

It's not always easy going from a full-time work schedule to days upon days of total freedom. Sure, the first few months of early retirement might be awesome. You might get to travel, kick back, and enjoy a more relaxed pace.

But in time, early retirement could end up being a pretty boring prospect, especially if you're forced to live frugally and don't have the money to keep traveling the globe. And so you may end up less happy as a result of your retirement, not more.

Early retirement is a great idea for a lot of people. But it's important to go in prepared. That means making sure you've really saved enough (and having some money in an account that's accessible when you're younger), figuring out health insurance, coming up with a solid Social Security filing strategy, and being creative on ways to stay busy. As long as you can check off these boxes, you can put yourself in a great position to leave the workforce ahead of your peers without kicking yourself afterward.

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